Edward Elric had invaded Roy’s house.
More precisely, Roy’s library.
Roy supposed he should have expected it. Edward’s argument that, since Roy was the one who wanted the current research project, he had a responsibility to contribute his own materials to its success was a cogent one.
Edward really was getting quite good at that.
And, since he had no intention of allowing Ed free run of his library without him present, he found himself spending several long evenings in his favorite armchair watching while Edward buried the small couch under piles of books.
It was actually fascinating to watch. It had been years since Roy had been able to concentrate on research for any extended period; he had almost forgotten what it felt like to devote that intense focus to books instead of people. The completeness with which Edward immersed himself in study reminded Roy forcibly of his first few years as an officer, when his books had been a familiar shelter that could soothe away the stress and frustration of dealing with intractable humans. Ed was intensely businesslike about this project, and yet far more relaxed than Roy usually saw him.
The first thing he did upon arriving was kick off his boots into a corner, and it wasn’t long before any overshirt or sweater he might start out with followed, tossed over the back of the couch. Edward also had a habit of whole-body fidgeting as he read, sprawling on his stomach, throwing his feet over the couch back, changing position every ten minutes at least.
When Roy had pointed this out to him, Ed claimed that it was because Roy didn’t have a proper desk or table in his library, and that Edward only did this when stuck with inferior furniture to organize his books and findings on.
Roy replied that it was the sign of an insufficiently organized mind to require such a crutch.
Edward threw a pen at him and buried himself in Forman again. Five minutes later he patted the cushions looking for his pen and merely thanked Roy, distractedly, when Roy handed it back.
It was, in other ways, extremely painful to watch, a reminder of what Roy had given up when he chose to keep his commission rather than work as a civilian Alchemist. He had put it out of his mind, fairly successfully, how much he missed the pure research. Now he tasted that again, knowing it could only be a fleeting return, and the cutting edge of that thought stopped his breath if he didn’t push it back down fast enough.
He resolved, once again, to dissuade Edward from following Roy’s own path too closely, should Edward ever lose his mind sufficiently to consider it. Roy didn’t think he would, but then he hadn’t expected the exchange that Edward had asked in return for continuing to serve Roy’s ends either.
If it hadn’t been for those ends, for the faint hope that he could succeed in them, these three days might have convinced Roy to resign his commission and return to work he truly loved.
He rather thought Edward would throw a fit of epic proportions if he ever realized the extent to which the same three days engaged Roy’s protective instincts on his behalf. Roy had never met anyone quite so fiercely independent.
Watching Ed work also clarified for Roy just why Edward had been able to rein in his temper so fast once he had a reason to do so. While he worked, Edward’s fire and flamboyance were channeled, honed to an edge that would shame a razor. When they had occasion to debate interpretations, which happened frequently, Edward did so with a ferocity and speed and focused force that delighted Roy, sometimes even provoked him to open laughter.
Edward’s life had given him an emotional maturity beyond his years in some ways, while stunting him in others, Roy was very sure. It was only these last two years, with his brother restored and their friend, the Rockbell girl, to help, that Ed was gaining any experience of the stability that might let him survive a normal life. Should he ever stumble across one.
His mind, though, had always leaped beyond. Roy had counted on Edward’s power, ever since he had first found the boy, but he had always regarded it as something a little apart from the person Edward was. He had considered Ed’s mind sharp but unformed; his intuition accurate and valuable, but not entirely reliable. Now, watching the driving brilliance of Edward’s understanding, Roy found admiration stirring in him.
Maas was right, Roy reflected. Edward wasn’t that boy anymore.